Snow day gift 

Friday, January 22, 2016

As I lingered under the covers Thursday morning I thought about how pretty and mild the day was forecasted to be. The one day of the week I was booked solid from 9am-7:30pm. I grabbed my phone to check morning emails without climbing out of the covers even for coffee to learn that due to impending weather everything was cancelled. A snow day with no snow!

What a gift!

I had a ton of work to catch up on so I decided to dig in and wait to spend any barn time until later in the day- it would also be the warmest then.

It wasn’t until after 2:30pm that I was able to get to the barn. I was conflicted as to how to use my time. We’ve had cold weather and more alone time recently and I was a little bored with short loops and training around the yard. I didn’t really have enough time to put in a lot of miles. 

I have sensed lately that Khaleesi isn’t really paying attention to me. It’s been gnawing at me since I sent a video of us working to a friend and she said as much after watching us.

I looked back. It was true.

We were getting things ‘right’- she moves nicely with me when we walk, she’ll stand at the stool now, but it’s like a teenager in a class they are bored with yawning as they give the answer with a ‘yeah yeah yeah I know… But what’s for lunch today‘ kind of attitude.

She’s not really focused. Not on me at least. I wasn’t really that important to her lately.

Maybe we should do groundwork?

No… It’s too pretty of a day for that… Come on!

I don’t know what we’re going to accomplish riding for 2 hours… Not speed, not mileage, seems like a waste of time- we should do something worthwhile. 

I often don’t have an exact plan when I walk out to the field. It sort of develops as we go and see where she is and where I am that day. 

Somehow it came together. 

When I walked out the girls were at the end of the pasture. Just standing in the sun not close to each other. They could have been napping. 

I decided to ignore them at first and check out their hay stash and run in shed. (Honestly you are already short on time- you should grab your horse and get moving!)

Horses wake up and start walking over to me (this is not a waste of time- today we are going to be excellent at every step – and pretend like we have all day… That is the plan now. Even if we don’t ride. We are going to focus on every single step today)

I let them find me. Khaleesi walks into the shed and takes a bite of hay. I ignore her and walk toward the gate a few steps. She is curious.  I don’t look at her but try to use body language to invite her to follow me. 

She does. I can hear her a few steps behind me. 

She is paying attention to me

I get her closer to the gate and reach back to rub her neck. She stands there and I put on her halter. We walk out together and she leads nicely to the barn. We (as always now) change speeds and back up and even do some circles to be sure we are connected. 

In the barn I give her a snack of beet pulp (wet to encourage hydration in the winter when they are prone to drink less), omega (supplement and feed) and show and pleasure pellets- with salt on top- again to encourage drinking. As she eats I brush her off and formulate the plan. 

We are going back to the basics today. We will ride if we can, but I have gotten lazy lately: tacking her up while she is distracted by eating. I’m going to ask her to stand still while I work around her and tack up and if it takes the entire time I have at least we will have worked on something valuable. 

This skill- being able to saddle up while she stands quietly, lead rope draped over my arm- is very valuable for our endurance training. At vet checks this would be a great skill to cultivate considering we often don’t have anything to tie to, I often don’t have a crew handy and there’s not always someone to hold your horse when you need. We are going to get serous about this skill this winter. And it will demand her to focus. 

One reason I have been lazy about letting her eat while grooming and saddling is that she gets snippy sometimes. She’ll tell me she doesn’t like that… Cinching up or putting on the breast collar or rubbing her with a cloth… It’s not serious but she needs to learn (as Buck says) “to live with that.” It isn’t hurting you- you are going to have to be ok with this process.

So I brought out all I would need and asked her to stand next to the saddle horse and every time she moved a foot I calmly put her back in place.  She moved a lot at first and also would try to block me with her head if I went to walk around her. I went slow and methodically. Each step I attained I took a picture to record the time. 

3:08pm: Standing still in place and groomed to go.   
3:14pm: took 6 minutes to stay in place, rub her, place the pad and stay standing still.  
3:21pm: 7 minutes to get her standing still in place to set the saddle on her back.    

3:31pm: 10 minutes to get the girth to the first hole on each side. She is not great with this part and she stepped off more than once. She even nipped her teeth in my direction once- to this I immediately backed her half way down the barn aisle and then brought her back in place. After that she stood much better.

 NOTE: I do not beloved she is in any pain with this and the saddle fits. It’s a habit and an attitude. There are times if she’s eating and distracted she doesn’t even register that she’s being tightened up. After I get it on loosely- she is usually pretty easy to tighten up. So I do not believe this is her crying out for help or in any pain.   

 3:36pm: breastcollar. I now also tighten one hole here and there on her cinch as I’m working. And rub her and just stand with her quietly too.  
3:45pm: bit and headstall. Before the bit I tied her back up, put a few apple treats in her dish as a reward/break and did a few last things as I went to get the bit out of the warm tack room. She was good at taking the bit and it didn’t take but a minute once I put her back in place.   
3:53pm: 12 minutes working on standing at the stool. She was not good here- she would step her hind away and walk off. It took a while to get her to stand still in place and then be sure she was paying attention to me before I tried to get on.   
3:57pm: finally mounted and she stood still while I got out my camera and reset my GPS.   
4pm: walking out to the trail. It took almost an hour to saddle, tack and mount properly. We don’t have that kind of time at the vet check!  
After all that I had about an hour left to ride. The ground is hard and frozen slick in many places. I decided to work on getting a good walk.

She did seem more into the ride and she argued less about going out. She only tried the turn around about 3 times and each time I caught it before she could get her head around and pushed that hind end back onto the right track. She isn’t trying with as much force now. It’s a halfhearted effort (that is progress!)

  
We had a great 4.25 mile ride. I now call these training rides as opposed to conditioning rides but I know both are valuable.  

I wonder if my horse friends & readers can tack their horses without tying (and asking the horse to stand quietly withou fidgeting)… Does everyone else already do this? Or would it be a challenge for others as well? 

I am going to get back into this habit again as I believe it made a big difference in our relationship during the ride. Has anyone else made this a priority? Let me know- I’m curious. Have you tried it? Is it easy for you? Make a comment here if you have (or haven’t). 

Do tell…

  

Baby it’s cold outside

Monday, January 18, 2016

15*F. 

I’m not sure if that is the coldest I’ve ridden in or not. It was at least sunny so I thought – why not? So it’s cold. I have layers. 

  
I often say the only ride I regret is the one I didn’t take. 

I think I could have stayed home today and not regretted it. 

In the sun it felt pretty good really. I was dressed for cold. I had two layers of socks with a warming insole and a toasty toe sticky between inside my insulated winter riding boots. I had my warmest tights that have a full fleece inside and thick outside that I can’t wear in the house without burning up. I wore underarmour then a polar layer with hood under my Horsewear winter coat that also has an extra removeable layer (I have not pulled that coat out yet this season- it hasn’t been cold enough!). I have SSG 10 below riding gloves and my pockets were stuffed with hand warmers. 

I even wondered if it was overkill. 

It wasn’t. 
The first 10 minutes I just thought how pretty the sunny day was. 
  
After that I spent 80 minutes thinking “holy crap I am seriously cold”. 

  
I think Khaleesi assumed I was off my rocker but even in her teenage phase she respects me enough not to ask too many questions. The ground was hard and frozen and we only did front boots so she walked along at about 3.5mph the whole 4 miles not seeming to care if we were headed away from home or back to the barn. 

She trudged along with teeny ice balls forming on her whiskers from her moist breath. 

Glad I could regain the feeling in my legs after getting into the warm tack room I thought in the future I might stick to temps above 20 from now on. 

Of course I can’t make any promises……

   

Ride on 2016

January 2, 2016

Last year was my first introduction to endurance and the start of my blog. This year I know just enough to be dangerous… And still have a long learning curve to go. 

I do have a few goals for this year, and hopefully they will help me continue with sound healthy horses and good experiences for me and those on my team. 

1. Improve my body. 

Specifically- I do need to drop at least the 5 pounds I’ve picked up through last year which is 5 more than I wanted the year before that. It will be good for me and my horse. I promise not to loose enough to put me in another weight class though 🙂

More importantly this goal is about improving how I use my body and in turn helping my horse improve hers. I have been fascinated with Sally Swift’s Centered Riding and she printed some great diagrams about how our body mirror our horse’s that I’ll add here.  She has experienced that if the rider holds tension in an area it usually corresponds to an area the horse will hold tension as well. Pam worked a lot with me over the summer to engage rather than hollow out my lower back and it seems to have helped Khaleesi develop a nice top line as well. This is supported by the concepts in Centered Riding of finding your center and strength, balance and grounding come along with that practice. 

  I have been focusing on this lately as I run. I have concentrated on using my center and not allowing my lower back to hollow and breathing all the way into that center. I also think of the ‘bubbling spring’ balance/pressure point under my foot as giving me energy and I have felt stronger and a little faster in my running. 

It’s also been interesting to consider how jogging is a lateral movement (arms and legs move a lot like a trot) and to work on ‘lengthening my stride’ and imagine how my horse has to work to add speed to her own movement. I can understand better how it takes time (and patience) to really develop that.

Those are the ways I hope to improve my body and how I use it this year. 

2. Rack up some AERC miles

Specifically- Team green has joined up with a ‘green bean’ (riders with under 1000 miles) team. We are the Rockin’ Mountain Monstas and I’m looking forward to having some team support and comraderie along the journey. In an individual sport where a leading motto is “Ride your own ride” it’s nice to have friends along the way. 

My riding goal this year is to do roughly a ride a month from March-October. I hope to do as many 50s as my horse can do healthy and sound, and to have the sense to move her back to LDs if that is what she needs. 

 

3. Strength and Balance

I have a pendant I bought almost 10 years ago when I was going through a major transition in my life. I chose it because it was the one I liked. After I bought it I read about the stones and design to find the piece was created to represent freedom (the wings) with strength (purple heart stone) and balance (blue stone). 

I strive all the time to find this balance in life. Sometimes I’m good, sometimes I’m not so good, and sometimes I can’t really tell.

    In order to be truly great it takes dedication and time- however I can’t ignore my husband, home and work to ride and train full time every day. Also my horses would hate me if I didn’t give them some down time mentally- and we always hear about the dangers of over working the horses and not allowing them to rest and heal in between events.

So I work on strength to pursue my goals and fitness but also to find balance to keep a full life; engaged in my world to use my lessons from the horse world and to make the non-horse part of my world a better place.  

Of course I’ve already written here about my desire to not just be a good rider but to always grow towards being a horseman. I hope through this year and every day for the rest of my life I will chase the feel and stay a student of Equus. 

Keep the earth below my feet. Let me learn from where I have been. Keep my eyes to serve my hands to learn”

For those of you who read these words- thank you for being part of the journey. Happy New Year and ride on in 2016!     

Home sweet home. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Very glad to be home after a nice visit with family. After a 5-day vacation the girls got out for a nice ride in the sweltering 72 degree afternoon. They did better than I’d expected with their winter coats already grown in but we took it easy on them just the same. Choosing a ride that had no big hill climbs and an overall pace around 3.5mph. 

It was a pretty day, pretty ride, and good company (Susan and Nancy). I love that my horses have been so willing to come out and hop on the trailer (they are sending on now pretty reliably) and seem to enjoy getting out and though we are riding a fair amount they don’t seem to be burned out or tired of the work.

I think it helps that we have so much variety in our program- we do some harder conditioning rides occasionally but we mix in some yard work (in the arena), some slow poke take the farm horses for a walk rides, and some pleasure rides with friends too. All require something a little different from them so we don’t get stuck mentally. 

Khaleesi’s boots have been 100% since pulling shoes this winter- if they continue to work this well I might consider pushing back my shoe program just a bit. 

I am feeling pretty good about her heading toward 50s this year. She is getting stronger and faster and more solid mentally each ride. I am really pleased with how well she is doing this winter. 

Our work on walking faster is incrementally coming along. We drag and then trot to catch up much less now- and she trots off less often when I ask her to move out (at a bigger walk). I see nice improvement there. 

More rain in the forecast for this week but we’ll hope to get in a few more rides before work gets going again!

  

Random Green Christmas musings

Christmas Day. December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to team green and my blog readers.

As this first Christmas on my endurance journey closes I have some loose thoughts to share…

I want to say thanks for the wonderful gifts I’ve gotten this year:

From Team Green’s Florida Contingent (Sarah & Madison) we got an early delivery of Omega Fields Horsehine supplements for hoof & health support. Both girls’ hooves are looking great, and their coats are healthy even in a few weeks from adding it. Also to help our feet stay in good shape this winter a new rider rasp to help clean them up in between winter farrier visits!

From Susan who is the newest member of the team and has been coming to do training rides on Faygo (which have been great for both training and conditioning for Khaleesi) we got help with a new set of front Renegade hoof boots for Faygo- to keep her moving through the winter without wearing out her front feet.

Also from Susan a training log for 2016 to help us keep track of our miles and ride calendar for the year!

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My husband Ed (an honorary member of team green since he’s supportive from afar) continues to be my ‘gear guy’ and always comes up with thoughtful gifts to keep us riding in all weather and conditions!

This Christmas he geared me up with half a dozen under-layers in every different weight and color- tops and bottoms… some with half zip, some with hoods, some with V necks, some with extra long arms that extend over my hands… super light for spring and ultra heavy for the coldest winter days- along with a bag of hand warmers, toasty toes and even the full feet insoles.

He also picked up a nice red on black biothane breast collar that I’d been looking at to go with my new saddle. (pictures of that to come… when my saddle shows up STILL WAITING on that… it’s just about killing me trying to be patient!)

Also with a new saddle I need a new saddle pad- my mom sent a new Diamond Wool saddle pad that I’d wanted. She also sent some great cold weather tops to help keep me snuggly and warm- I won’t have to do laundry now for weeks and still have great clean gear!

We are lucky to have such a great home barn and always consider Laurie as part of the team- even if she’s not with us often a hay feeder, or bucket, or fencing system, or just about anything else we might need and not have of our own is always there for us to borrow- and she gave me my absolutely favorite snuggly riding pants. On the few super cold days we have had I just want to wear them – riding or not! I’ve never put on a pair of pants so cozy and warm in my life!

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our happy barn home- the nicest barn I will probably ever share!

My sister-in-law Kathy is not officially on team green and says she’s terrified of horses- but she drew my name in our santa swap and picked up a couple pairs of my favorite smart-wool snowboard socks (my current ones have threadbare heels).

We are so lucky this Christmas to get so many great gifts helping us on toward our eventual goal- 100 mile one day ride… though this year the short term goal is taking on the 50s sound and healthy if possible.

Christmas week has no riding as I’m on the road visiting family for the holidays. This year it doesn’t feel quite so bad because it’s pouring rain at home with flash flood warnings.

I have tried to continue working toward our goals even on the road! Peggy Sue and I are out there each day jogging 4 or 5 miles to offset the wonderful celebratory meals we’ve been part of. I know Khaleesi is better off every pound I can shed and to stay fit and in shape myself!    

As Peggy Sue and I were jogging this afternoon I was listening to my favorite Christmas album (Sufjan Stevens- Songs for Christmas) and when The Friendly Beasts came on it touched me to be reminded the part equines played in the Christmas story- and how God choose a barn to be the first stop of the Christ Child.

It was a donkey that carried Mary…. and a donkey that carried Jesus later… and many times in between. It was a rainy afternoon and as I listened to the lyrics I was really touched and it made me miss our barn today:

(Listen to my favorite version here)

Jesus our bother, kind and good; was humbly born in a stable rude. And the friendly beasts around him stood. Jesus our brother, kind and good.

“I” said the donkey, shaggy and brown, “I carried His mother up hill and down; I carried her safely to Bethlehem town. “I” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

The song goes on with the parts all the animals played in welcoming the little baby Savior: the cow gave the manger and hay to pillow his head; the sheep gave wool to keep him warm; the dove cooed him to sleep so he should not cry; the camels brought the wise men bearing gifts…

Thus every good beast by some good spell in the stable dark was glad to tell of the gift he gave Emmanuel.

I’m not one to get overly concerned about celebrating special days. Sure- I like to do something special for birthdays… but I also like to try to make every day a day to celebrate and give thanks as much as I can. I try to find special moments on random days to enjoy and be thankful for. I hope I don’t only use our anniversary to tell my husband that I appreciate him and celebrate our life together… and on the flip side if we have a nice dinner together on the 19th instead of the 21st that doesn’t bother me at all.

I did feel a special moment today with Peggy Sue, looking out over Western PA, jogging in the rain and finding some pretty blooms and berries left on random trees- hearing the song about how the animals welcomed baby Jesus in the barn and even though December 25th may have little to do with that event- it’s still the day we chose to remember it, and for a moment I stood quietly and pondered what it meant in my heart.

I hope you found a special moment today- or many- with family, friends, animals, horses or even that moment alone. Joy and Peace.

Merry Christmas.

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The Good Deal.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Always offer the horse a good deal first. Then if they don’t take it do what it takes to get it done. If you’re consistent the will start to take you up on the good deal and you’ll need less effort each try.

**Every detail counts: I try to be more aware of all my interactions from walking over to the pasture to tacking up. I have a different way of approaching and putting on the rope halter now that asks them to participate and I ask new riders who come to try the same things because they are important to me. It treats the horses as partners from the first contact and considers them as beings from the start.

Each step to the barn is part of the dance and we do different speeds, back ups and even throw in a circle sometimes to partner with them and engage their minds with us before we ride.

I usually allow them to eat while grooming and give them some leeway there- but in tacking up I don’t want too much dancing or ear pinning while girthing etc and I insist we tighten slowly in between other movements (putting on a breast collar or adjusting stirrup length, checking feet or putting on boots, grabbing a water bottle etc…) so it’s not so harsh all at once.

When I bit I now insist they lower their head even a teeny bit and participate and I’m much more careful to not bop them in the face with my bridle and gently adjust their ears. Also I’ve lowered my bits so we have NO WRINKLES anymore. I never understood the common wisdom of the wrinkles and after hearing Buck say “That small amount of contact means something to my horse” I thought that makes so much more sense to me, I will try it. I think my horses are softer and happier with NO WRINKLES at their mouth. We certainly haven’t lost any control.

When we go to mount I prefer to use the stool- it’s easier on their backs and I want them to learn to come to me and stand so I can easily get on. We are never in such a hurry to get on the trail that we can’t take as long as we need to be sure the horse learns right where she needs to be for us and reward them with stillness and a rub first.

Once mounted STAND STILL until I say we can move. This is my current challenge with Khaleesi- she walks at least a step or two and then stops at which point she will stand still, but we’re forming a habit of a few steps first. I need to get off of her and start over when she does this but I’ve been lazy in it and just ask her to step back and stand- which she will do.

GOAL: work on getting on and NOT MOVING feet until I say it’s ok. Preferably on a day no one is waiting for me to hit the trail!

 

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**Leading Dance: Forward all speeds and directions is great. We’re still working on the back up with me next to her (leading). At first I had to ask her with the lead every time. Now she’ll at least take one step on her own. I want more, as many steps as I want, so now that she’s begun to get the idea I am trying to get a couple steps. I sometimes forget to release her as she’s backing and I hold the lead too long during the process which isn’t as clear and might be a reason why this process has been slower than cleaning up the forward motion.

GOAL: release AS SOON as she’s started backing with me and see if she’ll continue with me before adding pressure again.

**Walking circles: The fundamental issue with my walking circles is starting and turning. She does not know what it means to send her off with my lead rope. Once we’re moving in a circle she’s pretty good. I need to grab a longer line to get some distance, but she’s not collapsing in so much and she “gets it” now and moves around me and stays out of my bubble after we’ve gotten going.

GOAL: work on sending her each direction away from me with my lead rope. As Buck says the lead rope ought to mean something to the horse – it’s not just a leash to keep her from walking off.

 

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The dogs get really interested in what we’re doing. I liked this moment with Peggy Sue who had been following got ahead and turned to Khaleesi as if to wonder what we were trying to do.

**Forward Walk: We took a walking only trail ride with a local teenage horse girl and worked on JUST a little faster if she bogged down. Staying in front was helpful for this exercise because it wasn’t to keep up with the pack but just to move out. We sometimes had the big walk, and sometimes just a decent stride, but I never settled for the death plod and she only tried to trot out once- so she’s picking up a little speed for me and seems to understand. I have to remember to offer the “good deal” here as if she gets ploddy I start to assume she needs a kick to ask her to step it up. I assume a small squeeze won’t do the job- and if I don’t start with that it never will.

GOAL: continue to ask for better walk a few steps at a time. Always remember to squeeze with both legs just a touch before getting to a kick, and start insisting she keep up the pace longer each time.

 

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**Basics & Manners: On our ride today she kicked at Faygo (for the first time in months). The first time I was taken aback and not ready so I had to lose the opportunity to bad timing. I wasn’t even sure that’s what happened and I had to ask Susan… did Khaleesi just kick Faygo??  At that point it was way too late.

Fortunately a few minutes later Faygo approached us again and I was ready when strike two came!

I immediately and calmly one-rein turned her and started working in tight circles then small figure 8s disconnecting her hind quarters and moving around in a small space. She eventually softened to the work and I knew we had succesfully  communicated.

Susan asked me what I had done and why. I did a rough explanation at the time of making her work and move her feet, but in writing my blog (the main reason I do this) I thought it through more and realized that in choosing not to yell at her, or hit her in any way with my hand or my popper (all things I’ve heard of as ideas to correcting a kicker), I took control of her feet and I demanded she stop doing what she wanted (walk on toward home) and instead do what I wanted (go in small circles in one place on the trail). I continued this with her until it wasn’t a fight but until I felt her body soften and give to me and what this ended up doing was remind her that I was the one who makes these decisions when I’m riding her and she needs to “give” to me.

Kicking a horse on the trail is a manifestation of her taking control of a situation she wasn’t happy about (Faygo coming up to pass her). When she kicked she was asking a question:

Is it ok for me to kick Faygo for passing us when I want to be in front.

Unfortunately the first time it happened I said:

Yes, sure go ahead and kick Faygo.

I do not believe that 15 seconds after the fact me reacting would have had the same effect as when I did it immediately.

In some ways I loved the fact that me missing the first time did exactly what one should expect. The concept that you are always teaching your horse something in every interaction was never more vivid to me than that moment.

You have the choice- instill good habits, or instill not so good ones.

Every inch we give because we are not paying attention (like me today at kick 1) or because it’s just easier, will train the horse to invade space, not stand still when you mount, not pay attention when you need her to.

Conversely every tiny inch you ask for something to keep their attention or insist they stand quietly while you chat, fix your gloves or get off to adjust your saddle, or to back up while leading just for the heck of it, is an inch or more closer to your goal of having a horse who is a pleasure to spend time with, in tune to you, and most important: under control when you need it most.

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Next step:

Fine Tuning: I’d like to start with some serpentines around trees in open woods to get her from having trail blinders and staying connected with me. Also to help me continue to get her legs operating as if they were mine. Keeping an independent seat and working around trees with my legs and eyes can really “up” our game.

GOAL: take an “alone day” to go up into the woods and instead of a true trail ride, spend an hour serpentining around trees in the woods!

 

Takeaways:

I’ve been thinking more and more about the concept of giving the horse a “good deal” first. Every time. Allow them the chance to take the good deal and if they don’t- do what it takes to get it done.

The “good deal” is the most gentle way of asking for something. Every time assume your horse will take the good deal- even if she never has yet.

We can get used to assuming our horse won’t do whatever it is without a big loud bossy command and we skip the good deal altogether. The horse might have made a mistake the day before- but the horse moves forward the next day as a new day. It becomes reaction instead of thoughtful. We should avoid saying “my horse always does xxxx” because we’ve put that behavior on them now and assumed they can’t learn and change. We’ve now blocked the process of growth for them and us.

I thought about this in life too. We can have difficult relationships and we “know how that person is” and we “know what we need to do” to get something done or work around them. We react instead of thoughtfully proceed. This is more likely at work or with a family member because you wouldn’t normally keep a friend around that was difficult to be around.

Shouldn’t we always hope the best and give people a chance to each day to take the “good deal” first- before we get bossy or loud or go around them? It may not always work- but it’s a better process to at least start with a quiet and gentle yet direct request than passive aggressive maneuverings, bossy words or a tough attitude.

I know in my life it’s a good reminder.

As for my horse- the teenage phase hasn’t been so bad lately. Probably I’m doing a better job communicating with her and I love that after we work she has softness in her eyes and her body and a calm that tells me we did good today.

We all learn more when we can lower the stress level- horses and humans both.

Hunting the feel

Friday, December 18, 2015

The soft feel is the goal that it seems everything is in service to. Being able to do as much as possible with as little as possible. The instinct of when exactly to release when your horse begins to try- not to wait until the entire physical motion has played out. It’s something you can only pick up with time doing it.

Buck calls it hunting the feel– you get a taste of it and it’s something you want more of… you can spend your whole life chasing it.

There are worse things to chase.

Today we went into the arena to work on getting to the point where you reach for your horse and your horse reaches for you.

Though honestly I’m not completely sure what that means!

Technically… I get it… kind of… but we’re not there.

Right from the field… the way I put the rope halter on starts our day now. She lowers her head into the halter for me and she’s offering the back up before I have to reach up when leading now- each time it’s better.

It’s the hight of mud season right now- both horses are a muddy matted mess. We did minimal cleaning this afternoon as it was getting late and cold fast.

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First take away from our time today:

I need a more specific plan.

I had a vague plan, but I am a planner and I need to write down some goals before I go out. Right now I have a LOT of things I want to work on… so it’s not hard to find something to do- but it’s better to start a running list until I get more into a routine.

We began with walking around the arena on a loose rein (not a problem). Then I wanted to stop and see if I could ask her to give her head and release when she softened.  This is “the feel”.

Not bad- but if we weren’t moving she gets distracted and wonders when I’m going to do something.

Slight pressure on the reins.

K: Do you mean back up?

J: Uh, not really… I want you to drop your head.

K: I want to see what the boys are doing in the barn…

J: No, keep your head forward.

K: Faygo is yelling for me- she’s stressed out over there.

J: Focus. You’re with me.

K: And back up?

J: No, just soften your neck.

K: So we’re just standing here?

J: Yes. Kind of.

K: Oh.

K: I can back up.

<sigh>

We then worked on keeping an active walk around the arena. I want to get that nice forward walk on our trail rides. My A-HAH moment was that the “beginning” of the try is JUST A LITTLE faster. So I can’t get that fast walk I want every time right now, but I CAN ask for just a little more activity that she was giving on her own. Eventually that should build until I can ask her for her move out walk without getting a trot instead. Someday.

I was pleased with my “just a little faster” walk. It went great. We did a couple nice circles too.

I also took a moment to remember the exercises I did with Nancy earlier in the day with the Sally Swift Centered Riding book. We had a great morning doing some floor exercises that really impacted awareness of body- and how tension and balance affect everything.

I felt grounded and balanced and comfortable. At least at the walk.

Then we stopped again and I wanted to ask her with my legs to move her front end around her hind. I was able to get her to do this as well using the same techniques I watched. I touched her with my foot slightly forward and after she realized I didn’t want her to go forward she did step around. I could easily get her to take a few steps in each direction pivoting on her hind.

When I came home and re-watched the same segment I saw that Buck didn’t actually even touch the horse with his foot. He just pushed his leg forward and hovered it near the front end.

Hovering.

I hadn’t picked that up the first time. That’s pretty light right there. Not actually touching. Hovering.

The last thing we did was some trotting around the outside rail. No problem asking for a trot- but she still pushes me inside (same thing she used to do at Pam’s). Maybe it’s me? Either way I had to ask her loudly to get back to the outside. Leg and rein. She did it, but she was pushing me in. My decision was that once I got one complete time around with her willingly staying out on the rail we’d finish for the day.

About the 3rd or 4th time around we got a nice clean run and I stopped, got off and rubbed her:

Good job. That’s it! We’re done.

I put her out and brought Faygo in to do a quick pony ride up and down the mountain with one of the farm horses (who need a little exercise). We had a nice ride in the first snow flurry I’ve ridden in this season.

This time we took Bo- a handsome horse that wasn’t gelded until he was in his teens. He’s a good horse, but needs a leader. I didn’t know how well he’d pony, but if any horse can give it a go at keeping him in line it’s Faygo. For the most part he did a great job. Once we turned home he tried to run ahead of us, see if he could turn his butt toward Faygo, he was too close in our space (walking so close he was touching us with his body!) and then out of frustration nipping at Faygo’s neck (which is too close to my leg!).

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Enough- I stopped and asked him to step back. He did not.

He nosed his head toward my leg and braced.

I sat there on Faygo and bopped his rope halter to ask him to back up calmly and rhythmically.

For a long time (it felt like).

I watched for anything.

Finally a change in his body and his weight BARELY shifted.

I paused- then started again.

He stepped back!

Paused again and got one more step back.

Waited for a moment… the chance for it to sink in.

Then we walked off nicely. He stayed right at my elbow- a gentleman for the rest of the ride in.

I was getting cold as the sun was getting close to setting. I was reminded about one more Sally Swift thought.

My toes. (are cold!)

Are my toes loose?

Now they are.

Were they?

Not sure.

I spent some time thinking about wiggling my toes in my boots and feeling my ankle stay loose and flexible.

Was a good day of being aware, and we’ll be hunting the feel for a long time I think.

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